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XIV. Report of the Director, DHC

Dr. Ralph F. Naunton

October 11, 1996

Before presenting the Division of Human Communication (DHC) Director's Report, Dr. Naunton announced that Dr. Blake Wilson, Director of the Center for Auditory Prosthesis Research at Research Triangle Institute, had received a prestigious award from Discover Magazine. Dr. Wilson was one of nine scientists who received the award for his NIDCD-supported work on signal processing in relation to cochlear implants.

Dr. Naunton reviewed a number of DHC program activities including workshops, meetings, program initiatives and future events. These activities are listed below:

Meetings and Workshops

  • In August, Dr. Rochelle Small represented the NIDCD at the Gordon Conference on Chemical Senses. Many countries were represented at the conference, and many topics in the smell and taste program area were presented and discussed, including imaging, sensory coding and receptor expression.


  • In early October, Dr. Amy Donahue presented a program at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery on funding opportunities for new investigators.


  • Dr. Kenneth Gruber has been invited to serve on a Strategic Evaluation focus group for the American Tinnitus Association, following the regional meeting of that association.


Program Initiatives

  • As a result of a workshop held in 1995, a Request for Applications (RFA) on the "Molecular and Physiological Bases of Tinnitus" was published in March. Eight applications were received, covering a wide range of topics, including a variety of imaging studies and other tinnitus-related topics. All of those applications are now before Council.


  • A Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued in late 1995, under the direction of Dr. Terry Hambrecht of the Neural Prosthesis Program of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The RFP is entitled "the Neurophysiological Effects of Simulated Auditory Prothesis Stimulation." The RFP was designed to stimulate studies toward the improvement of information transfer in auditory prostheses of all types, including cochlear implants. Responses to the RFP were evaluated, and the award has been made to the University of Iowa; Dr. Paul Abbas will be the Principal Investigator.


  • A Program Announcement (PA) entitled "Exploratory/Developmental Grants for High Risk/High Impact Research" was published in September. This announcement is to encourage pilot or feasibility studies lacking traditional bases or pilot data, but which could potentially have considerable and important impact on the field. Dr. Jack Pearl is directing this initiative.


  • An RFA was issued, entitled, "NIDCD/ORMH Minority Dissertation Research Grants in Human Communication." This RFA solicited applications for Small Grants of up to $30,000, and will provide up to two years of support for minority doctoral candidates. Five awards were made just before the end of Fiscal Year 96. This initiative is under the direction of Dr. Judith Cooper.


  • A PA soliciting applications for Institutional Training Programs, intended to provide postdoctoral training in the conduct of clinical trials, was published in February of this year. Dr. Daniel Sklare is managing this initiative.


  • Another RFA, "NIDCD/ORMH Mentored Research Scientist Development Award for Minority School Faculty," was issued under the direction of Dr. Sklare. These awards are for salary and research support for minority and non-minority faculty at academic institutions with strong representation of minority students. Four awards were made just before the end of Fiscal Year 96.


  • A joint NIDCD/National Institute on Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) RFA on "The Neurobiology and Genetics of Autism" has been published, and applications have been received. Dr. Cooper worked with staff to assess the responsiveness of those applications and recommendations for funding will be brought to Council at its meeting in January.


The Data, Safety and Monitoring Board will meet in November or December to review data accumulated to date on the NIDCD/VA Hearing Aid Clinical Trial. As of October 1, the number of subjects enrolled is 140. Dr. Lynn Luethke has been responsible for this program.

Future Activities


  • Dr. Sklare will represent the NIDCD at a session on training opportunities at the Neurosciences Meeting in November. He will be joined by representatives of six other institutes at the NIH and a representative from the National Science Foundation.


  • Dr. Small is involved in a trans-NIH planning committee for a conference on "Taste and Smell in the Elderly--Behavioral and Nutritional Consequences." This conference is planned for early 1997 at the Federation of American Societies in Experimental Biology (FASEB) headquarters in Bethesda.


  • The Neural Prosthesis Workshop will be held on October 16-18 under the guidance of Dr. Hambrecht. This three-day conference includes presentations from the Principal Investigators of the NIDCD-supported contracts related to auditory prostheses.


  • A Workshop on Hearing Aid Improvement, co-sponsored by NIDCD, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), is planned for May 1-2, 1997. Technologies to improve speech signal processing, suitable for incorporation in hearing aids, have been identified by searching Federal research laboratories, and are being evaluated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The most promising technologies will be presented at the workshop, which will be held in NIH's Masur Auditorium. The workshop is being planned by Dr. Donahue.


  • Dr. Beth Ansel will make a presentation on research priorities and needs in augmentative and alternative communication at the annual meeting of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) in Seattle. There was a PA published earlier this calendar year in followup to a previous workshop on the same subject. The PA has generated many telephone inquiries from interested investigators; several applications have been received and will be reviewed shortly.


  • Dr. Cooper has been invited to serve as cochair of a seminar sponsored by the Office for Research in Women's Health. This is a trans-NIH initiative that presents several seminars each year on topics related to women's health. This seminar is on women and the aging process and will be presented in early December.


  • Dr. Cooper has been collaborating with Howard University in the development of a May 1997 conference entitled, "The Sequelae of Stroke, Communication Disorders in the African-American Population." That conference will be held at the NIH.
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